NEW YORK -- The lineup the Yankees rolled out for Thursday's series finale against the Detroit Tigers was a typical one you'd see on a getaway day matinee after a night game. No Derek Jeter, no Brian McCann, no Mark Teixeira, who is nursing another injury. The pitcher they had on the mound, rookie Shane Greene, was also typical of what they've relied on this season now that four-fifths of their starting rotation is out injured. And yet the Yanks still went out and outdueled Tigers Cy Young candidate Rick Porcello 1-0, with some terrific pitching and defense, defense and pitching.
This is who the Yankees are now. And if they do sneak into the playoffs this season, despite all that's gone wrong, this is how they're going to have to play.
The fact that this was good enough to take three out of four from the Tigers' just-assembled gantlet of former Cy Young winners -- Max Scherzer, David Price and Justin Verlander -- plus Porcello, who is tied for the league lead in wins and may be having a better season than any of them, well ...
"It's huge," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said of the starters he threw out in response: Brandon McCarthy, Hiroki Kuroda, Chris Capuano, and now Greene. "I think [this series] was the best four starts in a row we had all year long. They knew who they were facing. They weren't the guys being talked about. But they went out and did the job."
There's still a long, long way to go in this season. But the Yankees have the making of a remarkable story if they can keep doing the sort of things they did over the past seven days. First, they scrubbed away the memories of their lousy series against last-place Texas by going to Boston and taking two out of three. Then this: the sight of Greene, a no-nonsense right-hander, limiting the Tigers to just five hits and striking out five before he left after facing one batter in the ninth to a standing ovation from the Yankee Stadium crowd.
Asked what he liked best about the day, Greene shot back, "We won."
Anything else? "The nerves are gone," he said. "Guys have been good about bringing me into the clubhouse. And I'm starting to feel more comfortable."
Greene's start was the 50th by a Yankees rookie pitcher this year, nearly double any other team's total. The Yanks are a shimmering 31-19 in those games. Overall, the Yanks have already relied on a revolving door of 30 pitchers, a franchise record. And yet they moved six games over .500 again with this win, matching their high-water mark this season. For the entire series, the Tigers managed just six runs.
The days when the Yankees ran out a murderers' row lineup that threatened to lead the league in home runs are gone for now.
What they've got instead after the flurry of July deals they made is a club full of guys who are experienced and versatile and, in some cases, playing like they're fully aware the Yankees' usual pattern is to go out and buy bigger names. But they're here now. And they're playing with the sort of urgency that suggests they badly want to stay.
Other people look at them as placeholders. But so what? They look at this as an opportunity that doesn't often come along, especially for young guys. Not here.
"Nearly all of us who are filling in here, we're trying to establish ourselves in the game, someone like Greene, he's trying to make himself a name," McCarthy said, sitting by his locker after the game. "For this team to be successful, the way we're built, we know we're going to have to play this way. It's just different from what people are used to here in the past when they rolled out an All-Star lineup night after night."
The other thing you notice about this team is although it's barely August, the Yankees are already talking daily about October, doing whatever it takes to get to October, how nail-biters like this one are the sort of games you have to be able to win in October. Everything is October, October, October. It doesn't seem to occur to them that meanwhile, everyone on the outside is scratching their heads and wondering how in the hell this team has managed to stay afloat, let alone in the wild-card hunt.
But look: Chase Headley, who has been terrific since joining the Yanks, was languishing in San Diego but he seems rejuvenated here. Martin Prado, who made a couple of nice defensive plays to help Greene, including a stab of a hot liner by Rajai Davis though he was playing in on the infield grass, was with an Arizona team going nowhere. Stephen Drew, who had the winning hit, didn't even sign until May. Before that, he was trying to stay sharp taking batting practice against high school kids. Catcher Francisco Cervelli -- whom the Yanks had riding the back-and-forth shuttle to Triple-A Scranton so frequently, he finally cried the time he got sent down on the last day of 2013 spring training -- made two huge blocks of pitches in the dirt to bail out Greene and closer David Robertson.
And defense? You want more defense? Thursday, Yanks center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury covered so much ground, ranging far into left-center field to make two nice running catches -- only to find Brett Gardner there too, just in case -- the Tigers must've felt there was nowhere to fit a ball out there by the game's end.
Afterward, Headley, like McCarthy, was talking about the sort of attitude that is overtaking this team, even if it has been assembled out of necessity and on the fly.
No offense to the Tigers, Headley began, "But we think we have a pretty good team, too. We came in expecting to win the series. We don't care who's pitching. Or who we're playing."
Now we see if the Yanks can keep it up. But they know who they are and how they have to play. And that's a good start. Because something Girardi said after the game is tried and true.
"If you get pitching and play defense, you're going to win a lot of games."